All You Need Is Your (Whole) Health Back (Movie and Book Review)

Half of the adult population around the globe has some sort of chronic condition, varying in severity. Some are lucky enough to barely be bothered by it except as a reminder on their calendars once every few years to get checked by a doctor for any notable changes. Others can’t move an eyelash without being reminded that their body has taken on a long-term burden and there’s no relief in sight. A huge majority fall somewhere in between. Because of this, and social stigmas falling away regarding the discussion of chronic conditions, the market is being flooded with all kinds of materials and “how to” manuals for coping.

Through the Chronic Illness Bloggers group, I was lucky enough to be given these two products as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although these products were a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

The two items that I was given in tandem were a documentary called “The Connection,” and a book called “The Whole Health Life.” I didn’t approach either medium with any expectations, which turned out to be a good thing, because I tend to be very particular and picky – I don’t want my movies or reading materials to be too “preachy,” nor do I want them to assume that I know nothing about my diseases. Most of the time I see manuals out on the market that are written with new patients in mind, not with 20-year war veterans like me.

First, I’d like to cover “The Connection.” I’ll admit, I reached for this first because I didn’t feel like I had the attention span to get me through a book right out of the gate. I was quite pleasantly surprised. It was a good pace, but not overwhelming, while still giving the audience constant reliable information to process. For instance, I learned about “medical hexing” – many patients are told by doctors that we’re not going to get better. Would you believe it if I told you that two weeks ago, my primary care doctor told me that I should just give up and accept that I will never find a neurosurgeon who will be willing to help me with another shunt surgery and who will take my tumor out? Boy, is that ever a hex! But a hex doesn’t have to be that obvious. It can be about giving you a pill rather than looking at your whole lifestyle and looking at what can be improved upon. 

More points from the movie hit home for me, especially since I’m having such a hard time finding doctors who will help me. For instance, if I have zero support – friends, family, doctors – I’m three times more likely to die early. Luckily I have some really great family and friends. Also, belief is part of why we get better, but it takes both the doctor and the patient believing. So far, I don’t have the doctors backing me up. And I also learned from the film that our genes do play a major role in what we do develop as far as diseases go, but our life experiences and our environment also trigger the genes. In other words, you could be perfectly fine but if you go wading knee deep through an oil spill, chances are that MS is going to come leaping out that has been lurking all these years.

So if you haven’t picked up on it, the documentary “The Connection” got my attention. Because of that, I was confident that the book “The Whole Health Life” would be engaging – and it was. And that says a lot, especially coming from someone who has the attention span of a gnat at the moment.

As readers, we can spend more time on the book, relating to what the writer is saying about wading through the soup of pain and foggy brain, trying to get through an able-bodied world and looking normal on the outside. Immediately the author, Shannon Harvey, introduces the core concept: we cannot deal with health by separating “body” health and “mental” health. They are intertwined and inseparable. A pill may address one portion and meditation may address another portion and talk therapy may address yet another potion and engaging in positive social activities may be uplifting, but when consumed in isolation, they hardly make a difference. When combined, they improve a person’s well-being by leaps and bounds. Ms. Harvey breaks it down into 10 topics to easier process and incorporate the practices into daily living.

For me, meditation is difficult. As I mentioned before, my mind is more that of a squirrel than it is a turtle, but she talks about the benefits of calming the mind and recommends a few easy steps that anyone can pick up. Emotions logically follow right after that. What are we doing to process our emotions? What do we allow to play on our inner recording? And then there is the “placebo effect.” Let’s try changing the name of this, the taking of sugar pills and still seeing positive results, as if a patient has taken “real” medicine; what is really at work is the power of belief. The belief that a patient can heal and become well again (or at least have an improved life) that comes with the motion of the taking of the medicine is just as powerful as the drug itself and has been documented for hundreds of years; it’s why people “pray” when it seems all hope for recovery is lost.

Of course, on the physical side, what we put into our bodies and how we move our bodies makes a huge difference. Eating the foods that are the best for us, sleeping the right amount and exercising to the best of our abilities are all important in our recovery and maintenance.

As a “spoonie,” as those of us are known who have chronic conditions that cause fatigue and pain, many of us keep blogs, as I do, as well as participate on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We seek out others who are like us. We appreciate having others who understand our daily (and sometimes hourly, minute-by-minute and second-by-second) struggles. I think that “The Whole Health Life” would be a good book to read and re-read because we tend to get stuck in patterns that reinforce the negative feedback loop – myself included. If someone isn’t feeling up to concentrating on words, then they can sit back and watch “The Connection” for some reinforcement.

Please visit the documentary movie “The Connection” here.

You may purchase the book “The Whole Health Life” by Shannon Harvey through Amazon here.

Advertisements

Everything But The Gay

Quite frankly, I really like this pope…except for this glaring disparity in his chorus about love and acceptance and how homosexuals are still making a choice to sin. This is why I can’t subscribe to any religion.

 

Pope France made another official proclamation this week, and it was predictably warm and fuzzy. The 256-page document, titled “Amoris Laetitia” (Latin for “The Joy of Love”), calls on Catholic leaders and followers to treat one another with kindness and empathy, and to remain respectful and honest about the challenges of domestic life. It contains…

via If the pope loves gay people, he has a strange way of showing it — Quartz

My Adolescent Heart Is Cured

Right at the cusp of my childhood and the beginning of the time when I became self-conscious and awkward, we moved from a large metropolitan area with a population of 1.5 million people to a town of 300. My bus ride to school was long and filled with strange faces; it took an hour to get to a town of 700, where people rarely moved to or away from and were all largely related. In fact, I had a couple of classmates who were the offspring of first cousins, sentenced to lifelong special ed classes thanks to genes that were far too similar to have been considered safe to pair up.

I was bullied terribly my first year at the farm town school. It really wasn’t until the next year, 6th grade for me, that I started making friends. I also became a little more comfortable expressing myself – including being vocal about crushes on boys. One boy in particular held my attention for ten whole years. I’ll nickname him C. C. Deville, because he played guitar and wanted to be a rock star just like the guys in Poison and Motley Crue.

I made Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in my class. However, for C. C.’s card, I did exactly what I read about in a book, which was write a little poem without signing it:
“You can’t be my Valentine, you look too much like Frankenstein!”
He was intrigued! It worked, just like in the book! Except when he thought another girl wrote it for him, and he started making eyes at her. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Two years later a friend from Minneapolis stayed with me for a couple of days and came with me to school. C. C. Deville was doing everything he could to charm her, and she flirted right back, even though she knew I liked him. She liked him too and thought he was very cute. Later that year he got suspended for smoking pot under the bleachers in the gym, so obviously he was a little bit of a bad boy. No wonder all of the ladies were flocking to him like bees to honey.

When I was in 9th grade, I tried out for and made the cheerleading squad for boys’ JV basketball…which meant that I would be cheering for HIM. Oh, sure, there were a few other boys who were cute too. But there was one time on an away game that I was floating on cloud nine because we had to drive two hours through a snow storm on the bus and I was sitting in front of him, and he let me borrow his leather jacket to sleep on it. I could smell his cologne. I thought maybe he might eventually warm up to me since he lent me this article of clothing. Instead, he started talking to one of the other girls on my squad and eventually started dating her. I had confessed to her that I had had a long-term crush on him and I’m pretty sure she spilled the beans to him if he hadn’t already figured out that I had been throwing myself at him for years at that point.

(2 years break to attend arts high school.)
(2 years pass while I move back and forth between Michigan and Minnesota.)

When I was 20, I discovered that a former classmate was living in my apartment complex. She said, “Oh, did you know that C. C. Deville also lives here?” I just about shit my pants. It turned out that he lived above me. Shortly after that I ran into him, said hi, exchanged pleasantries, talked him into putting my new license plate on my car for me. (“Oh, C. C., you’re so manly, thank you!” Okay, no, I didn’t say that, not really.) Sadly, I didn’t see him after his dad and my aunt died and I left on my big trip around the U.S. to find a new place to live.

Facebook has directed us back into each others’ lives many years later. However, he posts maybe 6 times a year, and my average is maybe 6 times a day – mostly goofy stuff, sometimes political stuff, and occasionally medical updates. As far as I can tell he hasn’t moved much, he doesn’t have children, may or may not play in a cover band, may or may not have a girlfriend, and may or may not work in a bank. In other words, we are really only peripheral observers. All that we have in common is that we have been in the same place at the same time in the distant past.

Today, for instance, he posted something on Facebook that really weirded me out – mainly because it didn’t seem like he wrote it (though he was taking credit for it, but its rhythm and spelling and punctuation didn’t match the rest of his writing in other posts), and because it’s some sort of rambling message about “God.”

It starts out nice enough: “Most of the time, our biggest obstacle is us. Maybe we’ve stopped dreaming.” True enough. Then: “Or, maybe we’re refusing to share our dreams out loud because we fear that God’s reputation might be at stake. God’s reputation is fine. It’s our reputation as leaders that we fear taking a hit. The dreams in our hearts were planted by God who loves us!”

“God’s reputation”? That, my friends, is anthropomorphism – assigning human qualities to non-human entities.

He goes on: “The day we stop following the dreams God has put in us is the day we allow ourselves to go into cruise control. When our biggest desire starts to shift from seeing God do great things to making everyone as comfortable as possible, we know we’re losing sight of how big God is.

“Fight the urge to maintain the status quo. Instead, do everything possible to advance the cause God placed in your heart. Stay focused on what could be rather than what has been.”

This is what has cured my heart once and for all: I feel like C. C. Deville deliberately lived a small life, looking for hero worship in a small town, and is now turning to “God” to try to make his life feel expansive and limitless. A classmate said that she was surprised at his preacher-like post (hell, I was too), but he replied that he wasn’t trying to be a preacher, he was just coming to his senses. I think it’s more like he realized that he’s middle aged and he hasn’t done anything he said he said he was going to do when he first reached adulthood.

For the longest time I felt inadequate and undesirable while he chose girls around me. Now I feel as if I have run circles around him with my life experiences and we would have nothing to talk about.

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Creeper

I’ve been on an opera kick this week. Puccini is my absolute favorite composer, so I’ve had that station going all week while I have read articles, organized my taxes, and for the first time have colored in my “adult coloring book.” I’m a little slow on trends sometimes.

I often don’t understand the meaning of the songs because who here speaks fluent Italian? Not I. But it certainly adds a little flavor to my tasks. Also, it’s the funniest thing to run across some slow-motion films of dogs wiping out in the sand or attempting and failing to catch treats or toys in their mouths – so dramatic when Maria Callas is wailing!

I was feeling very passionately that my OKCupid profile needed another revamp. Guys don’t care what I’m doing with my life or which books I’ve read or if I know all of the cool places to eat. They just want to know if I will go hunting and fishing with them (welcome to Minnesota) and if I can hook my ankles behind my ears. So I took all that crap out. This is what my profile says now:

MY SELF-SUMMARY
*******I’M ALLERGIC TO:********

– Hookups, FWB, DTF
– Threesomes, foursomes or moresomes
– All animals furred or feathered (even “hypoallergenic” animals), though I love them
– Misogynistic behavior
– Bad behavior and excuses
– Cheaters, liars, thieves
– Poor dental hygiene
– Conspiracy theorists
– Stalkers
– Contemporary country music, rap
– Republicans
– Being called “cutie”
– Organized religion or prayer

The most private thing I’m willing to admit

I don’t get out as much as I would like to because of some major health issues.

You should message me if

– You are a non-smoker (of all things) and don’t use chew/snuff (ever)
– We live in the same country; my preference is to connect with someone in the same metro area because I dislike long distance relationships.
– You know and use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
– You would like me to proofread your profile for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

Almost immediately after posting these bullet points, a guy hit me up and said I was hilarious, and unfortunately, he was a hardcore Catholic and a Republican – but he really appreciated my sense of humor. We ended up having a really good chat through the site. He talked about his daughters, and how one of them was living with him as well as a nearly 2-year-old grandson. We chatted about the intricacies of finding and keeping a job that could pay the bills without the need to add another job. We talked a little bit about my disease and how it affected my ability to be social.

In all, a respectful, flowing conversation happened. Then I got an unexpected but very welcome call from my close friend in Arizona, and told the guy that I couldn’t chat because of the phone call. He said that was fine and posted his number, and I replied back with mine. He asked if I would be interested in a date. I thought what the hell, if we get along, we both could include each other in our circle of friends.

My call with my friend was pretty lively. She told me about the difficulties she had with men she had dated (or really, had minimal contact with) who kept calling and texting, even though she wasn’t interested and told them so. She told me how one had briefly been a professional MMA fighter, and took it upon himself to put her in a choke hold and then forced her to the floor. Another was a guy who couldn’t seem to accept the fact that she had gotten into a relationship with someone else instead of him, and even agreed to a double date so my friend could introduce him to our other friend – until he realized that my friend was also bringing her boyfriend.

My advice was that she must use small words and tell them why she is cutting them off, and then cut them off. First, they are not respecting her boundaries, and she does not owe them anything. Second, she needs to get her mind out of the space where women are required to be people pleasers and make sure they don’t anger men. That anger rears its ugly head when men think they are simply entitled to women’s bodies. How dare we reject them?

After we ended our call, I texted the dude and apologized for taking longer than I had planned. He called me “cutie” with a smiley face, just to piss me off. The next thing he did was tell me how beautiful my eyes are. I thanked him and told him I appreciated his complement, but I put more value in values than I do appearance. We discussed options for activities where I wouldn’t be up and out for too long (hopefully longer than a high five).

And then Hidden Creeper came out.

I was trying to discuss meeting places with him, and he kept talking about my appearance and how “cute” I am and that he just couldn’t help it. Then he asked me if he could kiss me.

In my head I was saying, “Hold on there, buddy – where in the hell did this come from, Mr. I’m-a-Hardcore-Catholic?” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that him talking about kissing me is his code for testing me to see if he can go balls deep. It happens all of the time.

I told him that if we both felt attracted to the other person, then sure, we can have a smooch. But I also told him that I didn’t want to discuss it further, because it has been my experience that if all you do is talk about what you want to do with the other person once you have entered their personal space, and then you actually meet, it doesn’t end well. Sometimes there’s no attraction from one or both parties. but then they feel obligated to ______ because it was talked about. I told him that I wanted to make sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

He replied with, “Ok sounds good” and then stopped texting me. So I still have no idea if this date is going to happen, but my guess is that it won’t.

I feel the change in personality happened as soon as we started communicating off of OKCupid and that is because he knows I could easily block him there and he would have no idea how find me. Luckily I can push his calls and texts to spam if I get some on my cell, but he doesn’t know that. I just feel sorry for his daughters. He revealed to me that his oldest daughter moved back in with him because she’s 24, has a 2-year-old, is kind of lost, and the baby’s daddy is an asshole who took off. I want to shake him and say, “He took off because you didn’t teach your daughter how to value herself, or she may never have let him in in the first place.”

Being able to look at everything and process it in a much healthier way than I have in the past is my present to myself. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I wish everyone else luck, would like to remind you that it sometimes takes effort to get on the right track, and keep holding yourself and other people accountable.

Can You Hear Me Now?

I recorded a 20-minute interview with Daniel (“Danny”) Levine about this blog and this crazy life. I’ve only been here for six months and already the Minnesota accent is creeping back in. There were a couple of times where the sound dropped, but you get the general idea.

A Prayer Before Dating

Today, a good friend posted a surprising quote from her Christmas Eve church service: “Lord, touch us where we need to be touched.”

Amen to that!!! I mean, that’s almost exactly, word-for-word, the prayer I say before each date. Well, okay, mine is a little more elaborate: “Lord, please let him have clean teeth, pleasant breath, an unsloppy kiss, magic hands, a great personality and recently bathed bits.”

This holiday is a bit rough. First, I’m no longer in Arizona and gathering with friends to feed ourselves silly and play games like Cards Against Humanity. They are all my “other” family. I have hosted as few as one and as many as ten friends at my house, depending on if they had already been extended an invitation or they had family in the area. I have always made sure they had presents under the tree. I try not to think about this or any aspect of my former life, because it inevitably causes tears.

There is also a gap with our sister passing in July. Her absence also brings tears. This is the first time in about 23 years that I, my other sister and our half-brother are in the same city around Christmastime, and it would have been perfect to have our oldest sister here too. We are still scattering a bit – our brother is heading back to Wisconsin to be with his girlfriend and her family for the holiday. I wonder if we will all ever be in sync; none of us has experience in how to act like siblings as adults living in the same area, and I watch friends who have mastered this skill with envy.

And of course, there is no soul mate under the tree. Santa baby, what the hell???? It’s too soon for me to be able to tell if the person I recently met is a match; we have a few strikes, including my inability to drive, our distance (50 minutes on a good day) and his recent purchase of a puppy (since I’m deathly allergic). He has a good heart, though. Right now we are enjoying each others’ company.

This is a difficult holiday for a lot of my friends who are struggling with illness, loneliness, isolation or job loss. I don’t have any words of wisdom to pass along. All we can do is get through the next week. Maybe what we have wished for this Christmas – a job paying a living wage, gatherings with friends, a loving partner – will show up, but just a little late.

Below is a picture from my house in Phoenix when I had two living rooms and decorated two Christmas trees. Again, tears. God, I loved that house and the life I made in Phoenix. But happy holidays to you, wherever you may be.

2ChristmasTrees

Showing Up is Half the Battle

Update: This morning, November 23rd, he sent me a text message saying that he was sorry because he fell asleep, and then he went to church and turned off his phone. He offered to show me the logs “where it proved he was in church.” I told him that all he had to do was text or call and tell me it wasn’t going to work out, not wait two days, and that it was time to live an authentic life and stop making excuses. Seriously, I am so done raising men.

_____________________________________________________

Yesterday was a good day for me, health-wise. I had vertigo and fatigue but not a facial droop. I thought I was undeniably lucky – because a friend from the past had offered to pick me up and take me out to karaoke, and rather than having my face paralyze by the time we arrived, there was a good chance that I would be able to be upright for a few hours.

He and I had talked about my limitations and what to expect to happen, which is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. All week he was telling me how excited he was to see me after all of this time. Then he started talking about how it has been a long time (in the neighborhood of 15 months) since he had dated, or been close to someone physically. Because we are so different on the religious front, I warned him that we wouldn’t be a good match because church is such a big portion of his life and I am 1,000% a non-believer.

I texted him Saturday afternoon to find out what time he was picking me up so I could plan accordingly. He told me that he would be by at 6 pm. Then he started texting that he was nervous about his teeth – he knows that I like it when men take care of their choppers. (I didn’t tell him that it’s because I had had boyfriends who had let their teeth rot and it was horrible kissing them.) I told him I knew it was expensive to get them fixed and that I was aware that he was making an effort, I just didn’t want him to have to get dentures in a few years at such a young age. I also told him that I had my own insecurities, but we should both try to work through them and enjoy our time out and catching up.

At 6 pm, he didn’t show – but he sent a text saying it had been a hell of a day and his roommates were fighting. At 7:30 he was still a no-show, so I texted him to ask if he was still on his way over or if we needed to figure out a different day.

Crickets. Nothing. Absolutely nothing, not even this morning.

There weren’t any stabbings or shootings in his area. I know this because I checked. With this in mind, there is no great mystery surrounding why he is still single. He has my cell phone number, my email and for Pete’s sake, my street address. I’m really struggling to find a place in my heart that will allow him the benefit of the doubt if he does come back to me, sniveling about something or other happening that prevented him from telling me what the deal was. It’s the kind of behavior that I would expect from a stranger but not at all what I want in a friend.

And if I sometimes sound bitter or disillusioned through the course of all of these blog posts, it’s because I am. Nearly every man in my life has let me down, with rare some exceptions. But rather than allowing this particular night of waiting needlessly to get my blood pressure up, I’m calm, as if he has never existed in the first place. As the daughter of an alcoholic, disassociation comes easily to me. But men should know that every time they do something like this, they break women’s hearts, even if it’s just a tiny bit; it all adds up.

While writing these few paragraphs, one of my favorite Anberlin songs came up on my streaming music. I’m sad they broke up in 2014 because I’ll never have the chance to see them live, but thank goodness for the permanency of YouTube.

Why I Don’t Pray

On Twitter, amid the hundreds and hundreds of posts flying around on my feed last night, one stuck in my mind, and it still galls me. It said something to the effect of, “Even if you aren’t religious, you can still offer prayers in support of Paris.”

I didn’t want to get in a war of words (or 140 characters or less) with a stranger, especially when there are bigger, badder things to be worried about. However, it’s enough of an issue with me that I would like to point some things out.

First of all, prayer is an integral part of religion. Any religion. If I’m not religious, that means that I don’t believe in religion, and therefore I don’t believe in prayer.

Second, religion is based on arrogance. Let me qualify that statement by explaining that every person thinks the religion they follow is the “right” religion, and believes that every other religion is the “wrong” religion. The monotheistic religions we hear about the most – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – are only a portion of what peoples’ belief systems are based upon. There are something in the neighborhood of 4,200 religions being practiced today. Which one is right?

Third, religions are created by humans. I’m sure you’ve heard of people saying they are going to “create their own religion” or “start their own church.” This is how all belief systems are born. Each faction comes up with its own rules and rituals. Think about Scientology: It was created by a former Navy guy who wrote science fiction. I mean, c’mon – what the hell is a “space opera” anyway??

Fourth, religions rely on mystery and lack of education. Leaders are always touted as knowing more than the rest of the followers. They are always revered for being more “blessed” than everyone else too. This is how religions continue to thrive. Think about the infamous Warren Jeffs and his “flock” – they all believe that he is some sort of prophet, and they hang on his every word. None of the kids growing up in the group know how to read or write properly and have memorized church elders as their only education. Obviously this is a famous group often singled out for its cult-ish behaviors. Pull back a little and look at all of the religions with the same eyes, and realize that leaders and organizers rely on the followers not questioning anything, or if they do, always circling back to the idea that the leaders know best. With all of the scientific discoveries we have made in the past century, how can anyone still believe in a virgin birth?

Fifth, believers tend to assign human characteristics to the objects they worship. For example, all of us have heard, “God will be angry” or “God will be sad” if we do certain things. Says who? We do. That’s right, humans.

Sixth, non-believers are not amoral. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t kill other people or intentionally harm other creatures. I live a pretty upstanding life, and that is without following one or two particular religions and relying on them to be my conscience. Here’s something interesting: In some areas of South America, before Christianity was introduced, there was less crime because everyone lived under the same code and worked together to make a harmonious community. It was truly shameful to steal or kill. After Christianity, crime became more prevalent – because they started believing that “God would forgive them.”

Seventh and last, what has prayer done for me? People offer to pray for me all of the time, and I thank them because it makes them feel better. I’ve been signed up for continuous prayer circles, many times, with or without my knowledge or consent. But this is what it boils down to: If I get better, then it was “God’s will.” If I don’t get better, I either didn’t believe hard enough, didn’t pray enough, or it was “God’s will.” With either outcome I have no hand in whether I get better or not. Honestly, I think that the idea of praying has allowed people to become lazy. They can post on Facebook or Twitter that they’re praying for the people in France, or for praying for starving children in third world countries, or for gun violence to end, but then they don’t actually do anything. They think it’s enough to say that they’re praying and it magically elevates them to being better people.

Do I believe in God? That topic is best saved for another time.